By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

Organizer cancels car cruise festival

News-Register file photo##Cars line Third Street during an earlier Drag the Gut Festival.
News-Register file photo##Cars line Third Street during an earlier Drag the Gut Festival.

McMinnville’s Dragging the Gut Festival is roadkill — at least for now.

Organizer Ruben Contreras announced over the weekend he is cancelling the 9-year-old car celebration because city officials are taxing him out of business.

City Attorney David Koch countered that Contreras still owes the city $4,000 from last year’s festival because it required additional police protection.

“He has not paid any portion of that $4,000 that I know of,” Koch said.

Koch sent letters to Contreras and potential sponsors for this year’s event (originally scheduled for Aug. 24 to 25) on Friday, saying Contreras has failed to seek the required permits.

Coupled with Contreras’ failure to pay for additional police protection last year, Koch warned “his ability to lawfully conduct many of the festival activities is now in jeopardy.”

Contreras posted on a Facebook page he is cancelling the festival entirely. “I just don’t have that kind of money,” he said.

He holds the copyright to the name Dragging the Gut Festival, Contreras added, so it is unlikely anyone could take his place as the festival’s organizer — at least under that name.

Koch said city permits are usually fairly inexpensive. There are two types of permits for events. Special event permits for mass gatherings, either public or private, cost $250.

The single $250 can cover multiple activities for the same event over multiple days at multiple locations — such as Dragging the Gut’s live music downtown and car show at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.

Street-use permits are free and cover the closing of public streets which happens at the UFO Festival and Farmers Market. Koch said Contreras failed to get any street-use last year. He applied for the special-event permit a week before the event.

“As a result, a very dangerous situation occurred with all the side streets open with highly congested traffic patterns going through,” Koch said. “It was not a well-thought-out public event.”

Because of the threat to public safety, he said, city officials needed to increase police presence downtown. “We were really stuck to where we had to bring in overtime officers,” he added.

Last year, Koch said, Contreras refused to apply for permits until a week preceding the event, leading city officials no opportunity to discuss safety concerns.

That’s when they added the requirement to pay overtime costs for the police department to Contreras’ special event permit.

Contreras is not being targeted, Koch said. “Everyone goes through this process. Our primary concern is public safety.”

Contreras said he was surprised by the letters sent Friday to him and  would-be sponsors.

“They never contacted me and I haven’t gotten a letter,” he said.

He contends permits shouldn’t be required for an event that is essentially just people driving down the street.

“I treat it as if it were a permitted event, but it’s basically people just hanging around,” he said.

Contreras said the festival is a world-class event that attracts hundreds of visitors to the community who boost the local economy by staying in hotels and eating in local restaurants.

“I think we give a lot to the community,” he said. “I appreciate their concerns and I think we’ve proven ourselves every year.”

In his letter to Contreras, Koch pointed out it is less than 60 days until the date of the festival.

“You have failed or refused to apply for the required permits.

“Without receiving a complete application for your proposed event, the city cannot provide any assurance that the necessary permits can be issued in time for any or all of the activities associated with your event to occur,” he further warned.

If Contreras attempts to hold any events without the required permits, Koch warned authorities would stop the festival themselves.

Koch also told Contreras the failure to pay the $4,000 from last year also jeopardized his ability to get permits this year.

Contreras should be able to pay the extra money for last year’s police protection, Koch told the News-Register. “I would note that Dragging the Gut is a for-profit festival,” he said.

Cruising downtown is free, but entry in the car show is $20 per car. The festival’s website lists dozens of sponsors and community partners.

Contreras touts the fundraising aspect of the event, saying the festival raised a significant amount of money and donations for Yamhill Community Action Partnership’s food bank.

Diane Longaker, the food resource development coordinator for YCAP, said the festival has brought in $5,500 and 2,000 pounds of food for YCAP over the past three years. That equates to roughly 20,000 meals, Longaker said.

YCAP distributes about 2 million pounds of food per year, she said, but the contributions of the festival were extremely appreciated.

For his part, Contreras said he feels targeted.

“It’s just hurtful and it doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said. “I feel these people have unintentionally defamed me.”

Last year, the festival tussled with the McMinnville Downtown Association over use of an electrical panel. Then MDA-director Rebecca Quandt said the panel, owned by the MDA, could be used by events only after showing proof of insurance and a signed liability waiver — which Contreras learned about on Friday of the event. He had neither, and ended up obtaining use of a private generator for the live music setup at the U.S. Bank Square.



I first want to state that I do enjoy this event and think it may get the most local turnout. That being said this has been an ongoing issue for years. His nonEvent/Event has been growing every year. Three years ago he shut down Davis and fourth for a beer garden and had to get the proper street closure to do so. Two years ago Ruben met with then City manager Martha Meeker and Mayor Olsen as well as other key members of the community. In that meeting it was laid out to him the necessary steps to put on his level of event. In that meeting he expressed his frustration of how much money that would cost him. He then essentially stormed out.

I have seen people discussing on Facebook where the money goes. One person saying that it went to greasing politicians pockets. I'm not sure those are the pockets getting greased. Ruben needs to be asked where that money goes.

Dragging the Gut is a great community event but should conform to all of the other events. First Ruben needs proper insurance. There needs to be a safety plan, sufficient porta potties, water stations and he needs zero-waste to help with the trash.

His issues are not new, so there is no way he can claim ignorance. All he needs to do is to treat this like a real festival and get a community committee together to put on this event successfully. The city has not told Ruben he can't do it they have just asked him to follow the proper steps. The ball is now in Ruben's court.


Scooter I agree 100% the city is totally in the right. We need to establish a community committee because it’s a great event but needs to be planned properly so no one gets hurt and everyone enjoys it.


This is just nonsense. This festival is a huge attraction and benefits this city in numerous ways, far more than Alien Days, and in my opinion, Turkeyrama. There are enough of us who love this event and look forward to it, that a small contribution would be easily given from many of us so money should not be an issue. If it is communication that is the problem, that can easily be remedied, since you are all adults. It leads me to believe there are other reasons why this has become a problem and I think that is sad. In this time of our lives where there is such division among us, it has been such a great time of coming together, of remembering, and celebrating times past that many of us enjoy and pass along to the other generations. Please-if it is a matter of pride or whatever the problems are, work them out and get this back on track. We need Drag the Gut Festival in McMinnville.


This is a head scratcher for an event this size....he won't pay a $250 permit fee ?....He runs his event with out insurance?....and in 9 years he hasn't banked enough to pay $4000 for the services that are used?...

The event is a great idea, but should have to follow the same standards/requirements as every other event....Running something like this without adequate insurance is shockingly irresponsible.

If he won't run it like a business...then shut it down, or let someone do it who will...You haven't been defamed Mr. Contreras...your reputation seems to be based on your choice of actions (or lack thereof).....


Loretta wrote:
“It leads me to believe there are other reasons why this has become a problem and I think that is sad.”

This hasn’t really become a “problem”. It appears Mr. Contreras owes the taxpayers $4000 and some assurances that such expenses will be met in a timely fashion in the future. If there are enough folks who value his festival in town, it should be easy to form a committee, collect the money (this isn’t exactly a fortune) from motivated citizens, and support Mr. Contreras in getting the permits and putting on a proper event.
If you can’t pull that off, well, maybe it isn’t that big a deal.


No way in hell the community allows this signature event not to happen. Too much a part of many people’s lives after nine years. Whatever it takes to make it happen will get done one way or the other.
No Dragging the Gut in McMinnville? No way.

Mac Native 66

To me, this comes in second place behind Turkey Rama. Alien Days is just a big joke. Ruben, I tried to worn you about this, but you just blew me off. I knew about this back in Sept of last year. Ruben, if my dad where still alive, he'd encourage you to NOT give up. Keep pressing forward and make it happen! Don't walk away Ruben.


I don't know if this event will happen or not, but if it does....I'm so glad that no one will be breathing second-hand smoke as many of these "pre-catalytic converter" cars roll by. Thank you City of McMinnville business leaders for taking steps to safeguard public health.


The diesel pickup trucks "rolling coal" (which is a felony in some parts of this country) killed it for me.

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